The Rust Tree Inside Me by Jung Kut-byol

Translated by Chae-Pyong Song and Anne Rashid

Photographed by Chae-Pyong Song

The Rust Tree Inside Me by Jung Kut-byol
(내 안 녹나무) 

I’ve been sitting on the windowsill. What has gone wrong?
Alongside a movie theater, a few bars, and a closed supermarket
absurd red insects disappear
I know there’s not any place better than here.
I feared the clock and the train,
wars and horror movies, too. I was young then.
I wondered if maybe a corpse was lying between the walls—
a common fantasy. Where was Father then?
When I saw innocent love, for a moment, my heart would stop.
I’ve been sitting on the windowsill.
I want to be a typist with perfect spelling.
Sometimes I’d like to have a child, a scary thought.
Without wheels and pedals, a bike is of no use.
An unfortunate person walks, following an abandoned railroad track.
There are things I would like to forget silently
like the railroad disappearing, covered by overgrown grass.
When the curtain descends, what kind of dream would fall in this window?
My life like a birch tree that dares to sweep away Heaven—
I once thought I would live like that.
After climbing up high enough when the tree could no longer bear me
I’d like to return to earth, stepping on branch tips.
But I, who hold a mouthful of changing clouds,
am a worn-out third-class singer. Tears are falling.
The rain of tears falling. What sort of fiction is this?

(Originally published in WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, Volume 39, Numbers 3 & 4, Fall/Winter 2011)

Jung Kut-byol is a professor of Korean literature at Myungji University in Seoul, South Korea. Since 1988, she has worked as both a poet and a critic. She has published four poetry collections, My Life: A Birch Tree (1996), A White Book (2000), An Old Man’s Vitality (2005), and Suddenly (2008) and two collections of critical essays, The Poetics of Parody (1997) and The Language of Poetry Has a Thousand Tongues (2008). She has also edited an anthology titled In Anyone’s Heart, Wouldn’t a Poem Bloom? 100 Favorite Poems Recommended by 100 Korean Poets (2008).

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